Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Calif. Senate Passes Bill Cracking Down On Free Paper Thefts

CHICAGO A divided California state Senate is sending to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger legislation intended to prevent the mass theft of free newspapers, a lightly punished crime now that's growing in frequency in parts of the state.

By a 21-16 vote, the Senate passed a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma that requires recyclers to pay by check, and record the identity information of anyone bringing in more than $50 worth of newspapers, about 840 pounds.

Free paper publishers in the San Francisco Bay Area have been alarmed by brazen thefts pulled off by people who follow delivery trucks and steal the bundled newspapers or all copies in a newsracks. They bring them to recycling centers, which pay in cash.

The bill, AB 1778, was supported by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and opposed by recycling companies which did not like the record-keeping requirements.

The law, which if signed by Schwarzenegger would take effect next Jan. 1, also applies to aluminum cans, and glass and plastic bottles.

"These recycling raiders must be brought out from the shadows," said Assemblywoman Ma. "Assembly Bill 1778 restores order to neighborhoods that are trashed in the middle of the night. With the price of recycled materials on the rise, recycling theft has become a lucrative business."